Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The great carbon credit con: Why are we paying the Third World to poison its environment?

We can't irrigate our land with it - it's the water of death. It kills the crops we put it on.

Via Fluoride Action Network.

Photo on left: In Gujarat shanty houses stand next to 21st century factories, many of which have been given carbon credits. [Credit Ash Sweeting/Daily Mail article.]

Gujarat Fluorochemicals [JV edit: fluorochemical-manufacturing plant]. The great carbon credit con.

By Nadene Ghouri

In the fields around this giant chemicals factory in Gujarat, the barren soil smells of paint stripper and the water from the well makes you gag. So why has it been given tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer-funded UN ‘green reward points’, which are traded hungrily on the financial markets at huge profit? [...]

‘We have plenty of water – but water is the problem,’ she says.

As the bucket returns to the top, we can make out a white, almost oily-looking film on the surface of the liquid, which has formed little snowflake shapes.

She scoops up some water and asks us to smell it. It has an odour so acrid it catches in the back of our throats, making us cough.

‘We can’t irrigate our crops with it,’ she says. ‘It’s the water of death. It kills most crops we put it on.’

‘Gone bad,’ says the man who brought up the pail.

Radha makes a derisive gesture across the fields. Her calloused, cracked fingers bear testimony to a lifetime of weeding, planting and hoeing. She is 40 but looks closer to 60. Since her husband died eight years ago, she’s had to feed herself and her six children. Perhaps it’s necessity that’s made her more outspoken than her male counterparts.

‘A few years ago, I grew spinach, potatoes, lots of different crops. Now… look at my plants. Weak, useless.’ [...]

A mustachioed man called Vijay comes forward. He explains that scores of villagers are sick with joint aches, bone pains, unexplained swellings, throat and nerve problems and temporary paralysis. The farmers can’t put any names to their illnesses and, as low-caste dalits (or untouchables), most of them are too poor to access proper medical services. [...]

Pandya was asked by the court to sit on an expert witness panel, which discovered fluoride poisoning in people, land and animals caused by air and water pollution.

It discovered toxic effluent in the water stream and evidence of toxic waste not being properly disposed of by GFL. The documents presented to the court have been seen by Live. They recommended that GFL pay compensation and that villagers be diagnosed and monitored regularly. None of the recommendations have been carried out. The villagers have become so frustrated that they have now made a formal submission to India’s Human Rights Commission requesting an investigation.

For the sake of objectivity, Live took its own samples of water from Radha’s well, Vijay’s village pumps and two other locations, as well as soil samples. We had them tested at an independent government-registered laboratory in India. The results were shocking.

They revealed dangerously high levels of fluoride and chloride – fluoride in the water was more than twice the international acceptable limit. All the water fell well below any safe drinking standards and the soil had worryingly high levels of these chemicals.
As a commenter on the Daily Mail article notes, "The questionable morality of trading the 'right' to pollute - when what's really needed is the re-engineering of industrial processes. Are we short of expertise, or of determination? If this was happening in Europe, rather than some remote location in India, it'd be dealt with pretty quickly." The environment in India also remind me of the same conditions that caused Factory Farm Flu.

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